Laura Nyro was one of the unsung heroes of 1960s pop. Though the singer/songwriter released a number of albums, many of her most enduring songs were covers recorded by other artists such as Three Dog Night and Blood, Sweat & Tears. “She had a kaleidoscopic musical sensibility that fused elements of folk, soul, gospel and Broadway tradition into intensely introspective songs that transcended easy stylistic categorization,” The New York Times wrote when Nyro passed away in 1997.
Fifty years ago, a covers album wasn’t called a “covers album.” It was called an album. Full stop.
Frank Sinatra, Elvis, Billie Holiday – most albums anyone bought were “covers albums” as we’d think of them today, but that’s not how folks thought of them then. Once the public began putting a premium on singers writing their own songs in the ’60s the concept of course shifted, so that an artist doing a covers album has to be like Michael Jordan playing baseball – an okay diversion but let’s get back to the main event please.
More so this year than ever before though, that pendulum seems to be swinging back in small but meaningful ways to what an album originally meant. More and more artists are releasing LPs saying, this is not my new quote-on-quote “covers album,” this is my new album (that happens to consist of covers). The attitude showcases a confidence and surety of purpose that shows they take performing other peoples songs every bit as seriously as they do their own.
That holds true for both of our top two covers albums this year, and plenty more sprinkled throughout. Which isn’t to knock anyone doing a covers album as a lark, novelty, tribute, or side project – you’ll see plenty of those here as well – but any blurred lines that put a “covers album” on the same level as a “normal” album have to be a good thing.
Start our countdown on Page 2…
In a sense, this is only an Everly Brothers cover album because the Everlys got to the songs first. Released 55 years ago, Songs Our Daddy Taught Us was comprised of just that, Everly Brother renditions of classics and standards. Billie Joe Armstrong, having fond memories of said album, decided to pay tribute to it, and he invited Norah Jones to join him. “Of course; what an obvious pairing,” said nobody.
The resulting album, punningly titled Foreverly, is a song-by-song (in a slightly modified order) rerecording of the Everlys’ classic album, and a potential introduction of the Everly Brothers to a whole new audience. There’s also the possibility that it introduces a whole new audience to Norah Jones. Or Billie Joe Armstrong. Who knows, but there’s a good chance that the number of people who are big fans of all three are few and far between (and likely thrilled).
L.A. funk/punk rockers, Red Hot Chili Peppers were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this past Saturday. On the heels of their upcoming 30th anniversary the band had the honor of hitting the stage last and did so in style. They were joined by Slash, Faces (and Rolling Stones) guitarist Ron Wood, Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong and the Godfather of Funk, George Clinton.
This weekend the SF Bay Area saw both Green Day and Metallica playing quite unique live shows. Just a couple hours before headlining Live 105’s “Not So Silent Night” in Oakland, Jane’s Addiction cancelled due to a family issue and local heroes Green Day filled in. Across the bay at the Fillmore, Metallica was holding a very special 30th Anniversary show for their fan club.